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5 May 2020

A virtual walk around Canna House Garden

Written by Fiona Mackenzie, Canna House Archivist
Take a walk around Canna House Garden with Archivist Fiona Mackenzie, along with memories from John and Margaret Campbell’s archives.


Feasgar math, good afternoon everybody. I just thought that seeing as you can’t come on a physical walk around Canna House Garden with me just now, I would take my exercise this afternoon and walk around the garden for you. And see what’s going on in the garden.

So we’ll start by going up through the lovely Escallonia hedge, which is always a bit like entering a secret place. It’s always a lovely place for all the wee birds as well. They love to just sit in the branches and chatter, and they usually stop when you appear. It’s very quiet just now, I think it’s going to start raining, so they’re probably all away inside for their tea.

So we’ll just go down this way. Here’s the view out to the bay there and just peeking through the trees there to the left, you can see the Rhu Church and the building there on the left there is Café Canna. All the bluebells are coming out, they’re beautiful and they grow always very close to the wild garlic too, which you can just see there, the white flowers showing there. They seem to like the same ground, so we use wild garlic a lot, at this time of year, there’s a short season so we make the most of it while we can.

This building you see here is Café Canna, the Bothy and the shop. It used to be the original Corroghan House, which was the big house of Canna until Donald Macneil built Canna House itself in 1863. There used to be another floor, another storey on this building here, but it was obstructing Donald Macneil’s view so he decided to take the top floor off.

The midgies are coming out too, it’s just that time of year, when they’re beginning to come out when the weather’s a little bit warmer and still a bit damp.

The beds here are looking lovely, the blossom coming out there .

Get a nice view of Canna House itself from here, the lawns are beginning to look really nice after the winter. Pete and Liz , the gardeners, take a lot of care, work very hard in the garden. Making it nice for you when you are able to come back.

The smell of wild garlic is overpowering, just over the wall there, we have the community poly tunnel and it is surrounded by beautiful wild garlic at the moment.

Fruit tree blossom coming out.

It’s lovely to be hearing bees coming back. We miss them over the winter. Here’s some of that lovely wild garlic.

The sound of bees

This is the greenhouse. When John and Margaret Campbell bought Canna in 1938, they had to empty the house of about 40 large cases of various stuffed animals and birds. The family who used to own Canna, the Thoms, were keen amateur taxidermists, and had left all these birds and beasties, most of which were rotten. So John had to burn most of them, but he kept the glass of the cases and they built the greenhouse with the glass that was left.

Somebody’s rhubarb coming up there. And the community plots looking beautifully empty and ready for planting. Anybody in the community can have a plot if they so wish to look after and to produce.

Beautiful espalier apple trees against the back wall.

Looking towards the old wash houses.

The old mangle outside the wash house.

Cuckoo sounding

The fruit bush beds.

Beautiful blossom just coming out. Pooni, the Siamese cat, the favourite Siamese cat of John and Margaret Campbell is buried under this tree.

And here’s the garden gate where Margaret came through and John managed to capture her in the 1930s.

Walking down past the blackcurrant bushes. Again the smell of wild garlic is intense.

To the left, this is the croquet lawn where John and Margaret would have frequent croquet matches. And we still do in the summer.

And this patch here to the left here is John’s wild patch where he liked to leave it to meadow, to encourage the butterflies to come. On the left you can just see Liz Holden busying away there in the borders, just beside the steps to the house.

A wee panorama right round. Sounds of the new lambs in the background.

And up the drive way to the House, flagpole there on the right minus any flags. Just wait till the absolute worst of the winds have gone and then the Saltire will be up there again for the summer.

In a few weeks, these bushes will be full of beautiful old fashioned yellow roses, John’s favourite. And the famous white bench.

This is Piccola, who was Pooni the Siamese’s wife and she has a very special coat. It’s a piano keyboard. And here’s her husband, Pooni, the floppy-eared Siamese cat.

And this is Sir Pooji Boyte, who was a principal character in one of John’s stories about the cats of Canna. And to his left, we’ve got Liz who’s busying herself away there, “Hi Liz, How are you doing?” “Spring cleaning!” “You’re doing a grand job!”

So I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little meander around Canna House Garden and we look forward to welcoming you in the flesh before too long. Tapadh leibh.

Come on a gentle stroll around Canna House Garden, seeing and hearing the sounds and sights of the garden in springtime. Watch for memories of the garden from the Canna Archives.

It may not be possible to come on a physical visit to Canna at the moment but that doesn’t mean that the island  is dormant. New life is springing up all around us and the air is filled with the sounds of the new lambs, the cuckoo and the bees. Come on a multi-sensory trip through Canna House Garden with archivist Fiona and whet your appetite for a trip after lockdown. You can almost smell the wild garlic! Your stroll is enhanced with some visual memories of the garden, taken from the Canna photographic collections. 

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